Rich Pierce once again put on an awesome race at Hillsboro. The forecast called for rain, and it did not disappoint! It was a Saturday in Hell for all of those racing, and a good number stayed home to wash their socks instead. Team Mack had a great race, with Big Daddy Mark McGeen coming down from Wisconsin top put some whoopin’ on the 50+ field. Mark broke away with Gary Painter (a really cool guy from Indiana) and took the final sprint, and it was ALL Gary’s for the next slots with Gary Dyer just pipping Uncle Gary Doering for the podium. Big Frank Brummer was also in the mix in the 50+ for Team Mack.
Oh, and, It was raining the entire race…..
In the 40+ I was coming in with high anxiety. I didn’t have a good first couple of races, and was trying to work on my head as well as my form. Training went well after Tuscaloosa, and I’ve dropped a bit of weight, but I only had two crits and no road racing under my belt. There was a very strong field assembled. I warmed up with Stephen Spanbauer and a scary looking pack of Zipp Factory guys, and pulled up to the start line with Clark Priebe and Denis K and Team Mack’s Sam Gulotta (one of the only other remaining 40+’s on Mack, everyone else is 50+!!!!). It was raining, and about 55 degrees. People were wearing rain flys over their kit. It was cold and miserable.
After about 6 miles, Curt Tolson took a flyer with Bryan Boggs and Rob Landes on his wheel. Rob was wearing a jacket and I think he burned out because of that. Boggs managed to ride the Tolson train to the end, only getting dumped on the way back into town (so I was told by the driver of the lead car). The chase group went along gingerly, with a few crashes in the usual places. It was a bit funny when Tracy Smith called one of them as an OKC Velo guy came railing around on the left (it goes without saying that is over the “yellow line” at Hillsboro—as if there is one at Hillsboro) right before “Molteni Corner” where Mike Humphries bit it last year. As we came around there he was flying off the road and Tracy was yammering the whole time about how people never listen to him….and they should! Tracy must have flatted out right after that, and the huge storms before the race meant that there was lots of crap on the road which caused flats and slide outs.
I was not to be seduced. After being way too overconfident in the last few races, I followed wheels and was ALWAYS on the correct side of the draft. I felt sorry for my old teammate Clark Priebe as he tried in vain with a Honey Badger guy to break free, but I did not feel sorry enough to sacrifice myself for the effort. Instead, I stayed pinned to Spanbauer and only jumped when it looked like maybe 6 or 8 guys were going to snap things. But, it never happened. We came into town on the last lap with about 30 guys, and Greg Springborn played the ace at the base of the feed and jumped free for what would be the last podium slot. I hung in thinking I was ok behind Trent Donat, who had climbed well all race. Trent moved up on the steep part until SCREEECH! his skewer failed and his wheel torqued into his chainstay. Next thing I knew, I was locked up and in the back of the pack. I almost gave up. Then, I remembered, I have done this before. I have dropped the field on that climb. I have chased to the front on the cobbles. I have outsprinted some really powerful people on the finale. I was not going to puss out. I gave it everything and launched up the climb, and it was chaos at the top—on both laps there were several people in the ditch. I steered clear of the guys on the ground and coming back into the road from the yards and busted down the hill to the cobbles. By the time the cobbles turned up, I had caught a group of five or so who had been shelled by the main chase and I blitzed past them in full sprint. By the time I got to the school I had caught the back of the Zipp group, only then Rob Landes and another guy tangled and crashed in front of me. I steered clear of that and continued to sprint up to Denis K as we rounded the corner, and my wheel slipped, and Denis sprinted, and the Zipps took off, and I sort of gave up. I was spent. Still, I wound up 12th out of the 54 who braved the elements. Our main chase group finished more than 3 minutes faster than the Cat-3 winner to give some indication of what the old guys do—Tolson finished three minutes ahead of us. It was good to be back at the front of a race of that caliber. I’m back.